American workers and consumers are more likely to prefer brands that publicly align with LGBTQ causes, according to a new analysis.
More than 51% of U.S. employees who responded to a global survey conducted by public relations firm Edelman from July to August said they were more likely to work for a pro-LGBTQ company, compared to 11% who said they were less likely.
In a separate Edelman survey fielded in May, 34% of consumers said they were more likely to buy from a brand that expressed support for LGBTQ rights, versus 19% who said they were less likely.
LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD partnered with Edelman to analyze the survey data to gather LGBTQ-specific insights. The survey responses came from 1,000 consumers and 1,000 workers in the U.S.
The insights come in a year where anti-LGBTQ government policy and violence are on the rise. Over 300 anti-LGBTQ bills have been proposed in state legislatures in 2022 and derogatory misinformation about LGBTQ people has increased by 400% on social media, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the U.S.'s largest LGBTQ advocacy group.
In conversations with its corporate clients, Edelman found that the growing hostility toward LGBTQ people has made companies nervous to take a firm public stance with the LGBTQ community.
“We often see companies ask whether they can afford to take a stand in support of LGBTQ issues, and this data shows that for many companies, they can’t afford not to,” Edelman Senior Vice President Lauren Gray said.
In fact, more than half of Americans expect CEOs to help shape policy around LGBTQ rights, according to the analysis. It found that young shoppers especially tend to find brands that pledge support to LGBTQ communities more “relevant” and “relatable.” A February Gallup poll reported that one in five members of Generation Z identifies as “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or something other than heterosexual.”
As a potential recession weighs on executives’ minds, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis recognized that some companies might mistakenly deem supporting social causes “nonessential.”
“But if you put the LGBTQ community on hold, it will affect your bottom line,” Ellis said. “It’s just the numbers. It’s too important to consumers and employees.”
There are brands that want to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community but fear that they will not get LGBTQ inclusion “right.” A GLAAD survey of 200 advertisers from February found that 61% think that there would be larger backlash for representing LGBTQ people incorrectly than “not featuring them at all.”
But 64% of non-LGBTQ people and 71% of LGBTQ people said they are more likely to purchase from companies that feature LGBTQ individuals in their ads, according to GLAAD surveys from 2022.
GLAAD’s Visibility Project intends to show corporations how to speak out “properly and accurately,” Ellis said. “I think it’s important to discern between joining a movement and marketing to a moment.”
Rather than just switching to rainbow packaging during Pride Month, Ellis wants to see corporations using their economic and political clout to stand against anti-LGBTQ legislation year-round. She also wants companies to prioritize diversity and representation when hiring.
Though this year has brought more corporate hesitation around LGBTQ support, some employees and customers have nonetheless succeeded in pressuring brands to enter the conversation in ways that go beyond rainbow logos.
In March, Disney faced criticism from its own employees for the company’s initial silence on Florida legislation that restricted elementary school education on sexual orientation and gender identity. Soon after, then-CEO Bob Chapek announced that the company would donate $5 million to LGBTQ support organizations and vowed to help repeal Florida’s anti-LGBTQ policies.
Since his return as Disney CEO last month, Bob Iger has spoken out about the company’s commitment to supporting LGBTQ communities. The entertainment giant also released productions this year, including “Lightyear” and “Strange World,” which spotlight same-sex romance.
“When you look at moments when there’s a clash over the LGBTQ community with companies, the companies that stand up for LGBTQ folks are the ones who win,” said Ellis. “I don’t think you can be a consumer-facing product in the 21st century and not have this as your priority.”